We at the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) were surprised and frankly saddened by the Maroon’s editorial (“A Failing Grade,” 11/2/07) decrying the University’s failure to provide its students with paths toward becoming teachers in our urban schools. We agree wholeheartedly that universities have an obligation to prepare their graduates to share the wealth of their privileged educations with those without similar access. In addition, the Maroon is on the mark when it suggests that programs like Teach for America, so popular on our campus, do not prepare its members adequately for this most difficult and urgent work.
But the Maroon seems to be unaware that these opportunities already exist here on campus and have been available for the past five years, apparently hiding in plain sight from the Maroon’s editorial eyes. UTEP recruits third- and fourth-year students in the College for a two-year program which results in a Master of Arts in Teaching degree and a K–9 certification. It is an intellectually rigorous program, combining high-quality clinical experiences which are closely and carefully integrated with appropriate academic content. Program support continues for graduates through the first two years in their own classrooms, a program component unique to UTEP. By now, 60 students have either completed the program or are en route. They are becoming a significant presence in Chicago public schools and are on track to becoming leaders in their individual schools and in the system as a whole. UTEP is currently planning to expand its program for those interested in high school certification in math and biology, tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall of 2008. Recruitment for the sixth cohort of our Elementary program is currently underway.
Your readers should be aware that UTEP is just one element of a much larger commitment to urban education that has been growing at the University over the last 10 years, under the aegis of the Center for Urban School Improvement. This effort includes the operation of a network of four charter schools, both elementary and secondary, which are integrally linked with our pre-service and in-service teacher education work, and support for a growing network of new schools, most of which are situated on the South Side. President Zimmer and his predecessors have demonstrated a commitment to improving urban schools that is unparalleled in other major universities. These efforts are rooted in newly created structures such as the Urban Education Initiative and the Committee on Education.
We invite the staff of the Maroon to meet with us to learn about the extraordinary work that is taking place on campus to bring educational equity to the schools and communities in whose midst we dwell.
Kavita Kapadia and Marvin Hoffman
Director and Associate Director
Urban Teacher Education Program